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By BTL Staff
Welcome to the Good Life. No, this story has nothing to do with Kanye West and the song of the same name. It’s about an innovative, openly-gay minister named Michael Heard and his passion for recognizing people for their achievements. Heard is pastor of the Goodlife Church of Columbus, Ohio and creator of the Goodlife Awards, which this year will be holding awards ceremonies in Detroit, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and, of course, Columbus.
“The purpose of the Goodlife Awards is to honor individuals who strive for excellence and success in whatever area of life they work in, volunteer in or commit themselves to,” said Heard. “We like to place an emphasis on the LGBT community, although we don’t only honor LGBT individuals.”
The idea for the Goodlife Awards came to Heard several years ago.
“I grew up in church and, for me, honoring people was just always something that we did,” Heard said. “We always had pastor’s anniversary, first ladies day, minister of music’s appreciation. So about eight years ago I wanted to do something that was different. I started out honoring first ladies. That took off and I was able to travel the country honoring women. Once I came out of the closet, a lot of those traditional church connections would no longer deal with me. But I knew I had the gift of putting together an event like this. So I decided I would create one for our community.”
The awards ceremony will take place Thursday, April 4th, at the Westin hotel in Southfield. The first Goodlife Awards ceremony took place in Atlanta in 2011 and honored affirming pastors in the area.
This year’s honorees include Pastor Matthew Bode of Spirit of Hope; Dwain Bridges of Mpowerment-Detroit and the Michigan AIDS Coalition; Pastor Darlene Franklin of Agape Spirit Life Ministries; Walter Houston of Houston’s Catering; Rodney Howell , owner of Hairshion Salon; Donte Jeffrey, owner of Foil Salon; Michael Matthews, founder of Red Tie for Youth; longtime Between The Lines writer and author Jason A. Michael; Dwight Rance; attorney Alicia Skillman; John Trimble, project coordinator for LGBT mobilization with the Kick Agency; Ray and Ryan Willingham; and Cornelius Wilson, founder of Men of Color Motivational Group and currently with the Detroit Health Department.
While in Detroit, Heard has something of an ulterior motive.
“This gives me the opportunity to see how the LGBT community would respond to having a Pentecostal affirming church,” Heard said. “Detroit does not have a Pentecostal affirming church.”
The mission of Heard’s church in Columbus is to provide a safe place for all people to come and worship. “There’s something that we say in our church every Sunday that’s very powerful,” said Heard. “This is the place of empowerment, enlightenment, education and encouragement. And that’s what we strive for.”
Tickets for the Goodlife Awards are $20 for regular admission and $40 for VIP and must be purchased in advance. For more information, visit http://thegoodlifeawards.com.